VIDEO: Toward a Bioregional State: A Novel Theory and Praxis for Sustainability
"Toward a Bioregional State and Ecological Revolution: Green Constitutional Engineering for the World" by Mark D. Whitaker
Recently, I gave a public talk about my two books Toward a Bioregional State (2005) and Ecological Revolution (2009). The talk's title began with "Fresh Shoots from a Dead Tree." I really do think this melodramatic analogy of all of us living inside a dead tree (our current forms of states) means we are in danger of destroying everything when these trees fall. They will fall from internal rot via the intertwined environmental degradation, corruption, and consolidation they encourage. As they do these three things, it makes them more illegitimate and more reliant on repression to maintain control.
However, there are fresh shoots from below, and this is what I concentrate on. How to encourage this green growth at the grass roots and build it into a novel formal framework instead of merely part of the breakdown process? And keep it from being co-opted or channeled by the existing degradative frameworks that have little interest in sustainability except to use it as a discourse to legitimate their ongoing degradation in a novel ideology?
I spoke to other environmental sociologists at this international meeting. However, why we have environmental degradation and what to do about it matters to everyone.
The session was entitled "Addressing the Earth in Peril", and I did so in a novel way because I disagree that policy change or novel political parties (by themselves) will get us to sustainability.
I disagree with the ongoing Malthusian revival (or here), the ecoMarxists attempt to blame economic logics alone, and the social constructionists that claim the topic is merely a power play by elitists instead of a material issue, the ecological modernizationists who say that we have to wait for technologies to be invented to make it work (however all solutions for sustainability are already here--meaning adding checks and balances to the politics protecting crony degradative materials is more important first), and the "New [sic] Ecological Paradigm" that fails to be aware of how 'old' environmental degradation is.
Given time constraints, I try to provide a talk about both theory and praxis--a novel view of sustainability and the way out of environmental degradation via green constitutional engineering. This novel view of green constitutional engineering means formally removing politicized consumptive infrastructures and unrepresentative elite clientelism in materials and their gatekeeping against other already available choices as the main cause of environmental degradation. Removing their gatekeeping formally may be the best solution toward sustainability that everyone could agree upon, from their different more bioregional areas that would have interest in maintaining more local optimums of life and materials destroyed by external political pressures.
Sorry for the speed of the presentation, though I think the audio is fine if you turn everything up. If you like, the paper upon which the talk is based is here.
A Novel Dance of Theory and Praxis...
Praxis means a practice based upon a theory, i.e., in this case 'how do we get to sustainability and by what methods.' The methods people choose to solve environmental degradation are affected by a variety of choices of theoretical orientation whether people analyze that theory always in the back of their minds or otherwise.
For me to have a different praxis for sustainability means to have a different theoretical view of what is creating environmental degradation. In this case, this novel theory was based on research coming from many others and myself following environmental degradation for long historical durations across different societies in the past and the present and looking for differences and commonalities instead of artificially limiting discussion to the past 100 years. I believe that this is a sounder basis to build any praxis for sustainability, to be aware of the many difficulties of sustainability and environmental durability in the past and what was causing destruction of societies in the past over time.
To cut to the chase, key to solving environmental degradation is solving political corruption and making corrupt state politics more representative via formal changes first and via independent, non-governmental watershed based institutions that can be started now, first.
Why formal changes first? Because unrepresentative elites cause environmental problems with their crony choices of formal laws, material choices, and institutional choices across four social areas through which they gatekeep against solutions that already exist, in their desire to keep a degradative informal hegemony over development and politics in their own profitable materials despite it leading to self-destruction. And for the latter, because autonomous, non-governmental formal institutions helping to organize local culture and local material flows for sustainability are required to represent the local ecological self-interest that is harmed in most unrepresentative governments' policy decisions.
What about the other popularly lauded alternative, forming another informal party and participating in politics first, before formal institutional change?
I suggest that by themselves any green parties are pointless, without their support of a bioregional state change as well. Why?
Internal Difficulties: Why Green Parties (By Themselves) Fail To Help Us Toward Sustainability
In a previous series of posts, I analyzed the 'internal difficulties' of attempting to work toward sustainability only through an informal party. I argue  it is unlikely to put all the spectrum of greenness into one party because greenness translates poorly as an ideology: instead it represents an ecological self-interest, more geographic and cross-ideological based on location, than ideological vehicles called for political parties. The moment green parties form, they become splinter groups of a particular limiting variant of greenness. I argued  splinter groups of a particular limiting variant of greenness set themselves up for co-option and merely participating in the ongoing greenwashing of environmental degradation despite greenness being a global majority viewpoint now.
External Difficulties: Why Green Parties (By Themselves) Fail To Help Us Toward Sustainability
In another post of that series, I analyzed the 'external difficulties' of any decentralization party--green or libertarian--keeping them from participating: there is current, huge systemic vote fraud across many countries (see the post) and corporate/media corruption interlocks in many countries of the world.
Therefore, without altering formal institutional frameworks of politics toward wider representation first, and without independent institutional frameworks on the watershed level first, I argue environmental degradation will continue.
The Three Elephants in the Room No Pro-Degradation State Politician Touches-- Health, Ecology, and Economy--Despite This Being the 'Silent Green Majority'
In current formal institutions (without much ecological checks and balances), informal elites take the political stage and enforce their ecological tyranny upon us all via clientelistic materials and ideologies that demote consumer choices of regions and demote citizen awareness or feedback on huge upset with the increasing health, ecological, and economic problems. Current frameworks of elite politics gatekeep on these three main issues which are truly the three elephants in the room of degradative politics--elephants that degradative elites pretend fail to exist.
Getting Serious: Polity Creation Instead of Policy Creation As What To Do About Environmental Corruption
Thus, removing an ecological tyranny can only be a formal institutional project--of novel non-governmental watershed based institutions as well as of green constitutional engineering. This is what I mean by "polity formation instead of policy formation" should be the main concern. To be seriously green means being interested in constitutional engineering and alternative non-governmental institutions working together.
For green constitutional engineering, the novel ecological checks and balances described in the book can remove those corrupt politicized raw material regimes that create environmental degradation and demote consumer choices.
For the non-governmental institutional additions, two different watershed based institutions help to express the non-ideological "ecological self-interest" of populations into a political force for check and balance against forms of degradation in their regions.
Ecological self-interests of multiple regions are the main political priorities of the world as noted in polls though this 'silent green majority' has been demoted politically through gatekeeping via different left and right ideologies splitting it up, though self-destructive internal ideological division (caused by attempting to put green politics in a left/right oriented party first which is counterproductive as described at the above link), and through economics/markets because suppliers or politicians refuse to provide a welter of technologies and materials for sustainability that already exist because it removes some elite's already established informal ability to create political clientelism and economic power for themselves, if materials were suddenly more representatively chosen based on all those experiencing the externalities of these choices in certain regions organizing against them in novel state constitutions as well as in non-governmental watershed institutions.
Formally removing the political and technological gatekeeping of degradative raw material regimes removes the ecological tyranny that we live within.
Unsustainability is enforced upon us by revoked choices as much as by poor choices made for unrepresentative clientelstic benefit.
Checking and balancing against corrupt, degradative elite politics in materials is key to unlocking the potential for sustainability. Why?
This is because all the materials and technologies for sustainability exist though are demoted primarily via politics of current corrupt raw material regimes that dislike competition with better technologies and materials--despite all the while creating a context that destroys even themselves in the end.
...And If Otherwise...
Without changes toward green constitutional engineering and more 'ecological checks and balances,' I anticipate the same predictable historical pattern of environmental problems. You can see this in the distant past as well as our hyper-globalized present: corruption steers environmental degradation. There is a corruption-based consumptive consolidation and it increasingly meets an opposition from a plurality of religio-environmental movements--some individualistic, some communal, all increasingly regionalized movements that delegitimate any form of elite clientelism. The latter movements dissolve the legitimacy of the larger increasingly militarized territorial state elites strategies oriented toward repressing everyone to consume unrepresentative choices. This process is without any dramatic or romantic resolution--just the same historical process of degradation at a larger scale once those rebellious discourses are co-opted and tamed to serve at a larger scale for future state formation.
For instance, you see this in our current era. Much of green thought, once rather decentralized, is increasingly steered to sell a global scam of carbon credits and a larger globalized jurisdiction on development that only puts oil companies and international banks that make money on trading and controlling the required markets in carbon futures. This only gives the carbon/oil/gas/coal raw material regimes greater control over development paths by institutionalizing them financially as well, instead of removing carbon.
So many other real issues of our environment--human and other species' health, chemical pollutions, and economic localization--are far more important and far more dangerous to ignore. Meanwhile, massive propaganda implies state-forced carbon trading will solve everything. It will only make the billionaires richer and the globalizers more in control of the poorer areas of the world without any connection to environmentalism. This corporate/state propagandized carbon regime has nothing to do with sustainable economics alternatives because it means only neo-carbon imperialism projects for everyone else, tax breaks for the real polluters, and they are granted the rights to pollute in the process. All real environmental concerns get increasingly left without 'elite sponsorship' except this strange one for carbon that merely encourages even greater globalized unrepresentative elite jurisdiction, greater global massive profits on novel state-forced markets in an unmonitorable commodity, carbon, (what a great scam--how do you trade an unmeasurable gas on a stock market as a futures contract? It will soon be even more corrupt than arrangements that created the U.S. mortgage housing bubble, in a 'carbon credits bubble'). It may lead to a greater corrupt raw material regime of oil being unchallenged after it is given rights to pollute via carbon credit frameworks.
Meanwhile, the real environment gets more toxic on the tangible pollution pathways--and social pressures mount against it. Though how they mount and what praxis they take is of great importance. Many praxis ideas offered just lead to more environmental degradation, consolidation, and lesser representation.
To make a sustainable movement toward greening requires a formal institutional plan, because  mere autarky by itself without a way of dealing with cross-border pollution issues can contribute toward greater environmental problems instead of remove them (as the ex-Soviet Union area went from bad to worse for instance with regional independence and the quick dying of green sentiment in the process);  and because informal party change is unable to reach sustainability by itself.
Follow the links for more information to previous posts, or find my books.